Quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be a challenge for just about everyone. We’re wired to go out into the world, to socialize, and to get breaks from the monotony of staring at the same four walls (and our family members or roommates!).

For some people, it’s not so bad. They can work from home and everyone in the household comes together to make the experience more bearable. But if you’re in quarantine with family members who are toxic, quarantine can become an ongoing nightmare.

It’s stressful living together in close quarters. Here are 5 tips for dealing with toxic behavior during the pandemic.

1. Know the Signs of a Toxic Family Member

Let’s be honest. It’s no fun to face the fact that your family member is toxic, especially when you’re stuck inside with them. But knowing what toxic behavior looks like and acknowledging that your family member or roommate is showing signs of toxicity can really help you to deal with the problem.

Some people don’t need any help spotting the signs. Some toxic behavior is very obvious. Other toxic actions, however, can be much more subtle and difficult to identify. Look for signs like cruel and critical comments, comparisons, breaches of trust, and chronic negativity.

Most people aren’t feeling their best right now. But there’s a difference between a bad mood or simple irritability and toxic behavior. Toxic comments are personal, hurtful, and break down trust.

2. If They’re a Workaholic, Try to Encourage Family Time 

Toxic behavior isn’t always directed at family members. Sometimes, people do things that are mostly toxic for themselves, like working all the time. But in addition to the harmful personal repercussions of workaholic tendencies, they can also interfere with family relationships.

If you live with a workaholic, try to encourage positive family time. Enforce putting devices away, and schedule when you’re going to have dinner together, play a board game, watch a movie, or go to work. Work addiction can be very challenging, especially when your family member is working from home, but it’s important to try to reduce its impact.

3. Know That Sometimes No Communication is Okay

Communication is important and can help you work through issues with your family members. But sometimes, no communication is okay, especially in quarantine. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to take a breather and leave each other alone. We all need our alone time, and enforcing those boundaries can help (or at least remove you from the problem for a little while!).

When someone is displaying toxic behavior, it’s a good idea to minimize communication as much as possible. Protect yourself by not engaging in conversations that could lead to arguments or bad feelings.

4. Utilize Online Communication Tools or Social Work Resources & Apps

In-person therapy might not be available at the moment, but there are options for counseling and mental health services you can access online if necessary. Whether you seek out a traditional social worker or a counselor, sometimes you just need to vent and express your feelings and frustrations, either alone or with your family member.  

You can turn to a social worker for help to reduce or mitigate tensions within your family that have escalated or have even become abusive. Social workers are highly trained individuals who usually hold a master’s degree in social work and are experts in dealing with various types of abuse and family issues.

Never hesitate to reach out to a professional if you feel overwhelmed or unsafe due to a toxic relationship with a family member. If you are the victim of abuse, reach out to law enforcement or social services right away.

5. Be Careful of Not Only What You Say But Also What Your Tech Shares

We’re using technology more than ever during this pandemic, and while it’s good to stay connected, there are also privacy concerns to consider. You don’t want your private conversations to be recorded without your knowledge, especially if you think a toxic family member might use what you say against you.

Turn off devices and be mindful of what you say during your private conversations. Toxic family members might try to twist your words, shame you, or try to get others on their side based on what you say. 

Remember, your mental health is important. Until quarantine restrictions are lifted, you might have to make the best of a bad situation. Try not to let a toxic family member make the lockdown harder for you!